Category Archives: Evolution

from the press

From Scientific American.com

Scientist to creationists: Don’t quote me

Former chemistry professor Homer Jacobson has requested that two passages be retracted from a 1955 paper he wrote on the origins of life after discovering that creationists were using them to support their arguments. The 84-year-old scientist told the New York Times that he made the discovery when, on a whim, he decided to Google himself and quotes from his paper popped up on creationist sites such as Darwinismrefuted.com and Evolution-facts.org. To bolster their case, the sites zeroed in on his statements that amino acids couldn’t form spontaneously without energy—Jacobson says today that he failed to mention that energy sources most surely existed billions of years ago—and that life could arise only under very specific conditions, which he now calls “a dumb mistake.” His retraction request appears in the November / December issue of American Scientist, which published the original paper.

(NYTimes; American Scientist)

Advertisements

notes from the edge of the river – IV the universe

These writings were from my solo vacation to a little red caboose cabin near Bandera, Texas this past week. A long weekend of relaxing, reflection and exploration.

There’s nothing like staring at the stars to get one’s mind turning to thoughts of how the heck this universe came into being. By 7pm (pre daylight savings) it is too dark in the hill country of Texas to do much outside. So I’m in for the evening. Luckily the owners of the caboose had quite a selection of videos to choose from – yes the VHS kind. I decided on Stephen Hawking’s “Universe”. Truly amazing; watching things like this always reignites my love of science and my awe at people whose minds can figure this stuff out.

For those who believe in a strict constructionist approach to the Bible Mr. Hawking’s theories would be blasphemy. It detailed the big bang theory, dark matter and questions on how the universe might end. The planet Earth was a miniscule part of this discussion as it was just one of hundreds of thousands of mass in the universe. It made the biblical original of earth seem almost ludicrous. If God created this amazing expanse, why focus so much time and energies on Earth? Then again, who knows what God theories exist on other planets!

It made me ponder the divine intervention concept, one, as you know, I don’t particularly believe in. But why would God go through so much trouble (at least I assume it wasn’t easy) to create all this just to ignore it? Maybe, I thought, the evolution of life on earth was a fluke. You picture God playing around with matches or something, suddenly there’s a big bang and next thing you know He’s got kids to look after. 😉

Ok, I’m only 1/2 kidding. But I do wonder about this creation theory. The accidental nature of it isn’t a new theory. The Gnostics believed that it was either created accidentally or maliciously by an “evil” deity. I could understand then why God would want to take human form. To see what it was all about to understand his creations better. Maybe he comes back as every species at some point.

Back to the Gnostics, these dudes were totally sci-fi. So in their concept (as far as I understand it), not only was the world get created maliciously, when that happened divine sparks got trapped inside human bodies. Jesus came to earth to give secret teachings that would free those who had sparks of divinity hidden in them. Frankly this seemed quite credible to me after watching “Universe”. Hey, it’s at least no more incredible than Genesis.

What I love about science and the study of the wider universe is that it gives me a different perspective and a new way of thinking about God. I find it invaluable.

as if they read my mind…

A very interesting article titled Churches Observe Evolution Sunday from the Mercury News on the church and evolution. Read it here.

A few excerpts:

We “believe the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably co-exist,” states an open letter signed by 10,500 clergy members. Science answers the when and how the world came into being, but why we’re here falls into religion’s realm.

In May, the nation’s first Creation Museum is set to open in Ohio. Founder Ken Ham said it was important to open the $27 million building because the natural science museums propagandize evolution. His group takes issue, for instance, with museum time lines declaring that dinosaurs roamed the earth millions of years ago. Some Christians believe the world is only about 6,000 years old. At the Creation Museum, the dinosaurs will be much younger.

…Won’t the dinosaurs be thrilled!

Ham is impatient with those who read Genesis metaphorically instead of accepting it as God’s literal truth. If one questions the very first chapter of the Bible, he says, they are undermining everything that follows.

…ok but what about the fact that Genesis actually has two creation stories, which one are we supposed to believe?

He has no problems with personal religion, but he’s frustrated by moves to have it replace scientific facts, especially in classrooms and politics.

…I couldn’t have said it better myself.

does God belong in the science classroom?

As I was waiting to pick my daughter from the Lutheran school she attends I was perusing the pamphlets and books that were on display by the sanctuary. One set of materials addressed the topic of creationism vs. evolution – some pointing out the holes in the scientific theory of evolution, others meant to show how one could introduce creationism into the discussion of human history. The church was hosting a lecture on the subject. These made me very uncomfortable but I’ve really had to think through why that was.

I like to think of myself as an open minded person who is very willing to listen to all sides of an argument. Evolution doesn’t bother me; it doesn’t offend my religious sensibilities. I believe strongly that it was God’s influence that created our solar system and beyond. I don’t believe for a second that there were 6 days of creation with different things being created on each day, etc. Some people do and that’s great; they are entitled to that opinion because at this point that’s all it is: my opinion vs. someone else’s.

Scientists have done a lot of research and have discovered a lot of information about our universe and the beginning of human beings. They are in no way complete, final discoveries that we can claim have definitively proved how or why earth/life was created. The history of scientific discovery has proved to us time and again, that we are frequently wrong about something and need to modify our hypotheses and theories with new information. Historically, organized religion has reacted negatively to those scientific theories that throw into doubt religious beliefs (Galileo would have a lot to say on this subject). That does not mean that science is always right and the church is always straggling behind in these matters, I’m just stating what I know to be the historical tendencies.

For a church to host such a lecture and open the discussion on creationism sounds reasonable. I welcome a healthy debate on subjects to give people a more in-depth understanding of both sides. What bothered me was what my daughter would be taught in science class. While I’m fine with discussing God’s role in the history of man in church, it’s quite another in the science classroom. Bringing a deity (a concept that is completely improvable no matter how good your scientific method) in a science classroom does not make sense.

If we had regular religious classrooms those would be a perfectly logical place to address these questions. My children go to religious schools for many reasons, but one of them is to be exposed the ‘spiritual’ aspect brought into their world. I want them to have an understanding of religious theories, practices and sensibilities. I also want them to get an education on the latest theories and practices in science. God does not belong there.

It would be too easy for me to just say “…it’s so because God did it, it’s in the bible, so let’s not question it.” I don’t think God gave us the brains He did so that we would sit back and not wonder about and attempt to explain things. We should not be afraid of what we will find. What if the answers we find disprove something in the Bible? God forbid! But what if it proves something else? What if what we find brings us to a greater understanding of God and His will?

Science can gather and test and retest and postulate and theorize. It can never tell us God’s intentions, His methods; the thought is ludicrous. I want my children’s scientific education to give them the wonder of what man and learn and discover based on the gifts that God has given us. I want their religious education to open their minds to the awesome possibilities we have with God’s strength.